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Passion for Perfection: The Daily Grind

Roger Dahl puts the same attention and precision into every ski he grinds, whether the ski belongs to Ole Einar Bjørndalen, Heidi Weng or a recreational skier. Photo: Stefano Zatta
Roger Dahl is the head of grinding at Madshus. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Roger Dahl is the head of grinding at Madshus. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Starting with the 2017/18 season, Madshus will offer our proprietary World Cup grinds to everyone. But what are these grinds and why do grinds matter? Meet the head of the grinding department: Roger Dahl.

Dahl has been involved in grinding skis since the first stone grinders came on the market in the mid- to late 1980s. He was involved with the Norwegian Ski Team’s grinding project that revolutionized the industry in the 1990s. And he has been grinding skis full time at Madshus since 1999.

“Everyone will benefit from the right grind. It doesn’t matter what kind of ski or wax you have if the grind isn’t right for the snow and conditions.”

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Roger Dahl. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Roger Dahl never lets the ski out of sight during the grinding process. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Putting his passion to work
On top of his 42 years of experience and a skilled hand for pushing the ski through the grinder, Dahl has a keen eye for detail and a passion for perfection, as well as a nose for invention.

“This is craftsmanship. It requires an attention to detail to a level that this is certainly not a trade for everyone,” Dahl says.

“You have to be meticulous. We are operating with margins that are in the fractions of one thousands, where just a hair too much or too little of the grind patterns separates the medalists from the list fillers,” he explains.

But Dahl thrives on the challenge. He is always looking for improvements to the grinds, and brand new structures.

“We always try to improve glide. We are constantly thinking about ways to adjust the structures or even come up with entirely new patterns.”

Dahl loves working with the community, and puts the feedback to work.

“I feel really lucky to be able to combine my job with my passion. One of the things I love about this job is that I get so close to the community. I meet a lot of people, World Cup athletes and recreational skiers, wax techs and equipment manufacturers, who are passionate about skiing,” Dahl says.

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Madshus dominated the Tour de Ski podium in Val Mustair (SUI) after the 5km classic mass start race: Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (center) won, with Heidi Weng (left) in 2nd place and Krista Pärmäkoski (FIN) in 3rd place. Photo: Nordic Focus

Roger Dahl makes sure the Madshus racers have the best glide. This is the Tour de Ski podium in Val Mustair (SUI) after the 5km classic mass start race where Ingvild Flugstad Østberg (center) won, with Heidi Weng (left) was 2nd and Krista Pärmäkoski (FIN) was 3rd. Photo: Nordic Focus

More than just a pattern
“Grinding and the research and science behind the grinding is probably the most important thing that has happened in this industry,” Dahl says.

“I’ve seen a lot of structures and grinds. It fascinates me how much of a difference just a small adjustment can make. It can be things like the speed of the grinding stone, the speed of the grinding diamond, the speed at which you feed the ski through the machine… Any and all of these parameters can make a ski great or completely destroy it,” he explains, noting that specialty grinds are not just for the World Cup elite.

“At Madshus, all the research that goes into making the perfect grinds for the World Cup skis directly benefits the consumer. I use the same grinds, the same equipment and put the same level of effort an attention into the skis I grind for recreational skiers as I do for the skis I grind for Ole Einar Bjørndalen or Krista Pärmäkoski,” Dahl says.

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Roger Dahl puts the same attention and precision into every ski he grinds, whether the ski belongs to Ole Einar Bjørndalen, Heidi Weng or a recreational skier. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Roger Dahl puts the same attention and precision into every ski he grinds, whether the ski belongs to Ole Einar Bjørndalen, Heidi Weng or a recreational skier. Photo: Stefano Zatta

Go general rather than specific
Grinds are designed to make skis glide better in various conditions. There are different grinds for different temperatures and conditions, such as warm conditions and cold conditions, new snow, old snow, transformed snow and man-made snow, wet snow and dry snow, and any combination of these.

But while the World Cup skiers have a large quiver of skis and grinds to cover all of these, most recreational skiers don’t. Accordingly, Dahl recommends getting grinds that cover a wider range of conditions, such as a more universal warm grind or a universal cold grind. The 9-6 grind is a good example.

“Our 9-6 grind is one of the most versatile grinds on the market. It covers a wide temperature range and will work on a variety of snow types from quite cold and dry to quite warm. Additionally, the 9-6 is a grind that takes well to a manual rill on top of the basic grind as well, so this is one I recommend as a good, all-round grind,” says Dahl, adding that the 9-6 grind is popular among the World Cup skiers as well.

Spring brings some of the best skiing of the whole season. Photo: Kent Murdoch

No matter what your goals are, the perfect grind adds to the experience. Try one of the Madshus speciality grinds, which are available from the factory starting this season. Photo: Kent Murdoch

Choosing the Right Race Skis – Part 3: Get the Most Out of Your Equipment

When you’ve arrived on your skis and they’re out of the box, then what? Theoretically, there is nothing else you have to do but go ski and tear up the trails. However, there are still a few more tricks in the box that help you get even more from your skis.

The NIS plate on which your bindings are mounted allows you to adjust the position of your bindings. Moving them backward and forward will alter the properties of the skis. In general, start skiing with the binding in the neutral position, marked as 0 on the NIS plate. “This is the point where your skis were measured and your kick zones for classic skis were determined based on this position,” says Bjørn Ivar Austrem, who is the Global Category Manager for Skis at Madshus.

The NIS plate allows users to adjust the ski by moving the binding forward or backward on the ski.

The binding can be moved 3 steps backward or forward, using the NIS key that came with the binding box. Adjusting the binding will slightly alter the ski’s properties, and in reality give you the benefit of having several pairs of skis in the same pair. Depending on whether its skate or classic skis, the ski will perform slightly different, but the principle remains the same.

NIS on classic skis: “Moving the binding backward on a classic ski will increase the glide, because you will sit slightly higher on the flex curve of the ski,”Austrem explains.

Accordingly, moving the binding forward on the classic ski will increase the grip. Using this opportunity, you can move the binding back in a flatter race with lots of double-poling terrain where glide is more important overall than monster kick. And for a hilly race with lots of long climbs, you might want to move the binding forward for better kick, and being able to get away with a slightly colder kick wax (which also improves glide in flatter sections of the course).

“Don’t be afraid to experiment with different positions and see how the ski performs for you,”Austrem suggests.

NIS on skate skis: On skate skis, the NIS binding principle is the same, but because of the ski and flex construction, the effects of moving the binding forward/backward is slightly different. If you move the binding back, the skis will feel like they accelerate faster, they ski easier from standstill to race pace. This might be a benefit on hillier courses with lots of transitions. Moving the binding forward is the opposite. It might feel harder to get the skis “up to speed,” but you’ll reach a higher max speed.

“You can think of the NIS binding steps as the gears on your car: Moving the binding backward is like using your lower gears, moving the binding forward is like going into overdrive,” Austrem explains.

And finally, you can adjust for different snow conditions. Moving the binding back in soft conditions gives you a little extra tip float. Moving the binding forward in icy or hard packed conditions will add a little more pressure to the tip and give you a more edge and control.

More on choosing the right race skis
Part 1: Construction, materials and what’s right for me
Part 2: Flex and Splay


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